Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom - Movie Review

Watched this movie with great anticipation and was pretty disappointed. It is too superficial to make an impact that one would expect from a feature film depicting such a great life as Nelson Mandela's. Based on the autobiography of the same name the film probably stuck to the narrative and goes about like a documentary almost.

One sees what is happening to Mandela but never feels really. For me the key would have been the transition of the man from a violent revolutionary into someone who is the genuinely forgiving old man with a twinkle in his  eye. Mandela really cared for his people, for people as a whole, and understood forgiveness, peace, freedom and harmony in its true sense. His speech in he court room where he talks of his ideal was to me the high point of the movie.

That speech is called the 'I am prepared to die' speech. It lasted for three hours and he gave it from the  dock of the court on April 20, 1964. The speech is considered one of the great speeches of the 20th century and a turning point in South Africa's history. The 10 people who were arrested on charges that included promoting communism, guerilla warfare against the state, and who were militant members of the ANC, chose to go with this speech and not the conventional route of cross examination. Mandela worked on his speech with help from writer Nadine Gordimer and journalist Anthony Sampson.

It was expected that they could get a death sentence as well. However they risked it. The key part of the speech - "During my lifetime I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."

Mandela's lawyer asks him to delete the last sentence which he does not, adding only an "if needs be".

Casting was good. I liked Idris Elba who played the lead role with much energy and Naomi Harris who was perfect as Winnie Mandela. But to me it feel somewhere in the middle - no drama of a feature film and no sharp and honest reporting of a documentary. Sad, because I really admired the man.

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